Wiffle sport comes alive
When you hear the name Pickelball, it evokes a vison of something you might down at the State Fair.
The idea of folks hitting a wiffle ball across a net with a ping-pong-like paddle with a similar look to a handheld square mirror probably isn’t a vision that comes to mind either.
The latter, however, is true and the sport is becoming more prominent despite existing for half a century.
The game has many versions of how it got its name. Majority believe its name stems from a congressman’s dog in Washington in the 1960s named Pickles who loved to fetch wiffle balls for his owner.
In Pueblo West, you can find groups nestled in the pines at Lovell Park or at the YMCA playing Pickleball from sun up until sundown.
The beauty of the hodgepodge of a game, which combines the elements of tennis, ping pong and badminton, is it delivers a great workout and plenty of entertainment for participants.
“The vast majority of people who play this are over 50,” said retired veteran Don Swearingen. “This is a social game. You can play the game and talk smack over the net. We enjoy ourselves.”
While Pickleball is a new word to most people in Pueblo, Swearingen and the group that consisted of married couples and children play every Tuesday and Thursday for two hours. The past two years have consisted of Pickleball for majority of the group and because the game caters to the older crowd and isn’t as taxing on the body, there are few limitations on who can play.
The premise of the game is similar to tennis with the setup of the courts and the scoring. Serves must be underhand and the serve and second hit must bounce, afterward a play can be made on the ball in the air.
The kitchen, or a no-volley zone, is located about seven feet within the net and stops players from camping around the net to smash a volley. A player can only enter the kitchen if a ball bounces in it during play. On a serve, the ball must bounce outside of the kitchen or the serve player loses that serve.
After delivering a crash course in the rules of the games, Cheryl Moore, another Pickleball enthusiast, described her start in the game and how she enjoys it because there are no distinct advantages or disadvantages from ones stature.
“I noticed that tall people could play with short people and it really didn’t matter,” Moore said. “I never competed when I was younger because I felt I couldn’t because of shortness.”
The growth of the game has been substantial in Colorado. Denver developed about 30 courts and this year the State Games will include Pickleball in the tournament. That expansion is something everyone at Lovell Park hopes to see in Pueblo West. There are currently just a few locations to play Pickleball in Pueblo West and those locations aren’t the most ideal.
The court utilized at Lovell Park is shared with multiple events held each week by Pueblo West Parks and Recreation. The lack of courts and areas to play hinder the growth of the game in Pueblo West. While Swearingen understands that expanding the game and getting new courts will take a couple of years, he won’t quit fighting to seek help.
“I know they (Pueblo West Parks and Recreation) have a budget to keep and we respect that,” Swearingen said. “Hopefully we can talk them in to resurfacing the pavement out here so it (the courts) can last a couple of years.”
While discussing everything from politics to issues within the school district, Swearingen pointed out the significance this game has on the older crowd. There aren’t many sports that seniors or those with disabilities can excel at or play.
Pickleball offers a way to stay active and enjoy time with a loved one. Since the game allows for conversation also, it’s a great way for married couples to stay in shape together.
“Husbands and wives play this game together all the time,” Swearingen said. “It’s a sociable game which is why so many play doubles and that’s why we enjoy it.”